WATERBURY -- Joe Nolan lost his son in Iraq more than 12 years ago, but talking about is still difficult. “Even now, it's hard to believe he's not here… he had all kinds of plans," explains the father and Vietnam veteran.
Sgt Joseph Michael Nolan grew up in Waterbury and Wolcott. He was a highly decorated soldier, awarded a purple heart and bronze star among many others.
Nolan was fluent in Arabic, he was an interrogator, interpreter and translator. He was also involved in other work that his father says he wasn't allowed to know about because of security reasons. “He actually saved Iraqi lives as well as American lives because of his work and his knowledge of the language when he was over there,” says Joe.
Sgt Nolan was assigned to the 1st cavalry division, in Fort Hood, Texas. He was deployed to Iraq in January of 2004. On November 18th he was killed, struck by an IED outside Fallujah.
"Joe didn't really email, he called me on the phone from Iraq, usually it was a Saturday. I got used to it.. waiting for his phone call. After he died it was like I’d wake up and think ‘how come he's not calling me?’...then I would realize, well he can't."
For years Joe, his daughter and many others have been working to set up a memorial for his son and our other Connecticut heroes who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's hit a few road blocks, but it's happening now. Something the proud father says has been a long time coming.
"People need to know that people died, and these aren't people, like statistics, they're real people they come from real families," explains Joe.
The memorial is now being engraved and will debut on Memorial Day weekend at the Veterans Memorial Park in Waterbury. Joe was hoping it would be displayed on the downtown green, but says the main objective is making sure our heroes are never forgotten, "We need to talk about it because we need to remind people that war kills and people die, people are maimed, we need to stop having wars every 10 years. People need to see that 'Hey, I knew that guy or I know that family’.”
Waterbury's Global War on Terrorism Memorial will be dedicated on Saturday, May 27th to the six men from Waterbury that gave their lives in service to our nation since September 11, 2001. All are invited to Veterans Park, Thomaston Avenue.